Archive for November, 2014

A Thanksgiving choice to live life on purpose

Do things on purpose.

Don’t just walk blindly through life, following the path you’re told is ahead. Don’t do things just because it’s traditional or proper or follows the established norm.

Drive your life.

Don’t let things just happen to you, but make things happen. Don’t adjust to circumstances, but adjust to put yourself in favorable circumstances.

Think, act, be.

Don’t assume or let others force assumptions onto you. Be your own person, for your own reasons – and make sure there always is a reason.

Do things on purpose and with a purpose, and chances are, you’ll be all right in life. You’ll probably be more than all right – chances are, you’ll be happy. Living on purpose and with a purpose has a name these days, and it’s called intentionality.

Thoughtful people can arrive at intentionality any number of ways and through any number of worldviews. Faith, environmentalism, realism, feminism, atheism – any way of thinking that actually involves thinking and choosing for one’s self instead of following the crowd can lead to decisions that are, by definition, intentional.

Intentionality could easily be seen as a coming of age thing, a gift of adulthood. Because it requires a process to get to a point where our decisions truly feel like our own.

We grow up being told what to do: Go to school. Eat your broccoli. Study for your test. Wake up already! And do it all right now. We follow the crowd to fit in: Read the “Harry Potter” books. Watch “Survivor” or “The Bachelorette.” Shop at Abercrombie. And then many of us reach a point when we purposely ignore the trends to stand out: Don’t read “The Hunger Games.” Shop for obscure punk band T-shirts. Shun every life choice that’s seen as “traditional” and plan to be a rebel or a nomad or any kind of independent badass, really.

These things are choices, and I’m not discounting them. But we arrive at many of them in response to outside forces, not from our own internal motivations. When we reach intentionality is when we make decisions – not only about what to read, watch and wear, but also about what to do with our lives – based on our own inspirations and our own reasons.

This requires questioning things. Big things, of course: What should I do with my career? Do I believe in the faith in which I was raised? Do I want to raise a family? What do I value the most? And little things, too. What’s my clothing style? How much should I spend on the latest new gadgets? Which sports teams will I really follow? Which foods will I eat and how much will I drink? Then big things again: Do I follow the crowd or chart my own path?

Ignoring the norm might not be for all of us. But choosing whether to ignore it, follow it, or shake it up a little is something we all must do if we want to understand ourselves, stay true to ourselves and be happy.

When we’ve answered a few of these questions about who we are, how we act and what we want, we begin to form the basis for an intentional life. And it’s something to be thankful for this week and always.

So do things on purpose. Drive your life. Choose. You’ll be glad you did.


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In the ABCs of Twenty-something life, N is for Nature

I’m sitting in my apartment looking at my favorite cactus, some weird mini tree-like plant thing my roommate just bought and barren tree branches outside. It’s November in Chicago, when winter is right around the corner, and I wish I was somewhere else.

California, along the ocean, maybe. Or even Wisconsin boating on a lake would do. I just want to be in nature, and the suburbs in pre-winter don’t feel very natural right now.

Even for those of us who can’t tell corn from soy bean plants or would never be caught dead eating a Nature Valley bar in a forest, the underlying message of wilderness therapy can come in handy.

When we’re stressed, overwhelmed, unsure or otherwise unhappy, being outside can center us, calm us and bring our racing thoughts back to reason. All it takes is some water, a path, trees, a park, a field, or whatever natural area is within reach in your microcosm of the world.

The lakefront bike path, Lincoln Park Zoo, even a pocket park with nothing but a couple of trees and some playground equipment or Busse Woods forest preserve with its view of Woodfield mall all count as nature around here.

But water, usually lakes, is my natural setting of choice when I’m stressed. The sounds of waves lapping and wind whipping have a mysterious way of combining with the sight of sparkling blue-green water and landscaped shores to wipe away my worries, tears and fears.

Some might choose a forest or a canyon as their favorite outdoor site. Others may favor an urban river, a wetland, a prairie or even a remote desert. But the principle remains the same: Get outdoors, find peace in nature and lose your problems to the power of pleasant sights. … Before winter really sets in.

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The fantastic T-shirts of the typical fitness club

Let’s just say I don’t go to the gym for the scenery. If I did, I’d pick somewhere that costs more than $10 a month and draws a clientele of far fewer old people.

But I’m cheap. And I just go to the gym to run on a treadmill when the Chicago-area fall/winter weather is its usual cold or insanely windy or rainy or snowy or dark at 4 p.m. or otherwise horrible.

As an added bonus, I get to see some gems of T-shirts and workout apparel on my fellow gym rats.

First, there’s the couple who’s always matching. I’ve seen this guy and gal on lime green shirt day (my personal favorite), on red shirt day, and on purple and yellow shirt days, too. They clearly do laundry together, and in color-coded loads, because I’ve never seen this duo in mismatched hues. And they don’t seem to think this is anything out of the ordinary. Gotta admire their confidence and their unity. Whoever sweats together, stays together … or something.

Then there are the people who wear the same T-shirt every day. For a week. As if it’s a high school gym uniform, which, in hindsight, must have been so gross it’s nearly unimaginable. A shirt is definitely dirty after being worn to the gym just once. But that’s just my opinion. Ask the guy who wears the “Every DAMN Day” shirt at least three days in a row – he might just have a different take.

I’ve been puzzled by a few barcrawl T-shirts with wacky nicknames and lists of unknown campus bars from colleges across the country. I’ve been reminded that the Shamrock Shuffle and the Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot are quite popular among west suburbanites and I’ve seen just how popular the Blackhawks have grown since their Stanley Cup win in 2010.

But if you haven’t made it to the gym in a while, you might be missing out. I’ll leave you with these few messages from real-life T-shirts and none of my commentary:

“VIRGINITY ROCKS” (front) “I’m loving my husband and I haven’t even met him yet” (back) “Never trust an atom; they make up everything” “You don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for” “SOBER” (front) “Never looked so good” (back) “Pass me the rock” “I’m a Keeper”

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A week in twenty-something life … as told by the laundry pile

Dumping out the laundry basket can trigger a trip down recent memory lane.

No, seriously, the laundry pile can tell you a lot about the past week (or couple of weeks, or month) since you last washed clothes, towels, sheets, etc.

Did I work out, get some runs in? Yup, there’s visual evidence of run completion in the form of two dirty pairs of old basketball practice shorts, three rumpled T-shirts and – oops – an old sweatshirt I probably have worn five times since it got cold.

What about the bars? Did I get to go out? Could be, but no. It’s just that I went to a couple of non-costume Halloween parties in a Bulls T-shirt one day and a plain white long-sleeved shirt and khakis the next. There’s also that one shiny top and another work shirt that says “hand wash only.” So that one probably shouldn’t be washed with the rest of the pile … but that’s what cold water is for.

And what did I do at work? Well, there was that staff meeting last Wednesday (blue button-down now crumpled and tangled with the dark gray pants with silver pinstripes). And that Saturday event where they made everyone wear name tags (forgot to pull the darn sticker off the front of the red cardigan). And ahhh, a Friday event at a new restaurant. How I (and my dark wash flared and fraying jeans) love you.

But now, for the most important laundry-related question: was I clumsy in any of these clothes? Does this load require stain spray or soaking or, ugh, any kind of extra effort? Luckily, no. Not this time, it appears. There was that epic water in the kitchen at work, but the clothes don’t show any evidence. And I’ve certainly had my share of clumsy purplish-fruit-cup-juice-meets-silver-pants, or half-full-beer-bottle-meets-laptop-keyboard spill events. They just weren’t this week.

So I’ll take it. The laundry, and the week it represents. And after Election Day is over, I’ll dump it all in the wash and hope it comes out slightly better- or fresher-looking than when it went in. Who knows, next week’s pile might just tell a completely different story.

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